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Second Russian Front Opened On Georgia

Despite international commendation and calls for a ceasefire, Russia has shown little inclination to wind down, much less halt, military operations against Georgia. Bombing raids targeting Georgia’s military infrastructure have continued apace, and now an additional front has been opened in the escalating conflict. AP writer David Nowak
reports:

On Monday afternoon, Russian troops invaded Georgia from the western separatist province of Abkhazia while most Georgian forces were in the central region around South Ossetia. Russian forces also moved into the Georgian town of Zugdidi and seized police stations, while their Abkhazian separatist allies took control of the nearby village of Kurga, Georgia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.

Nowak proceeds to cite, correctly, that the capture of Gori—a town astride Georgia’s sole east-to-west highway, has the potential to “effectively cut the country in half.” It is not immediately clear how the Georgian military would cope with the loss of this vital strategic thoroughfare.

As noted earlier at ThreatsWatch, Russia considers the area vitally important to its strategic interests. Abkhazia and South Ossetia represent critical land routes for Russian passage into the Trans-Caucasus region. However, while Georgian forces appear battered and in retreat, the Russian onslaught shows no signs of abating. Speculation also abounds that Russian forces may even drive on the Georgian capital. In light of these developments, some are beginning to wonder whether the Russian counteroffensive has nothing short of Georgian subjugation in mind. “It’s all about the independence and democracy of Georgia,” said Georgia’s embattled president, Mikhail Saakashvili.

Whether expressed publicly or not, Saakashvili’s sentiments have likely made the rounds among many Western leaders as well. Unfortunately, if Russia does intend to exploit the present crisis to squash independence in a former vassal state, the West would have little strategic leverage with which to counter Moscow’s ambitions.

Note: Readers may like to see an update by Nowak, Russia drives deep into Georgia.